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Film brings rockers taste of fame

22 October 08 07:39 GMT

By Emma Jones
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Imagine a year in the life of a heavy metal band, from a disastrous tour of Europe to the tears and tantrums of recording their 13th album.

They finally get offered a big gig in Japan - but will anyone come and see them play?

This is not a sequel to Spinal Tap, although some critics think it's just as funny.

It's a documentary about Canadian rock band Anvil, which has premiered at the London Film Festival.

Few people have heard of Anvil, even though multi-platinum sellers Metallica, Guns N Roses and Motorhead cite them as an influence.

Even Actor Keanu Reeves turned up on the red carpet in London and declared himself a fan.

But Anvil: The Story of Anvil by Hollywood writer Sacha Gervasi is no retrospective on a career.

After more than 30 years in the business and now in their 50s, Anvil are still trying to make it big.

Obscurity

They formed as teenagers in 1970s Toronto, when high school friends Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner began the band together. The current line-up consists of the pair plus bassist Glenn Five.

Their biggest breakthrough was their 1982 album Metal on Metal, and they shared stages with a young Bon Jovi.

After this, Anvil slipped back into obscurity and day jobs - in Lips's case, working for a catering company.

But they have never stopped releasing albums and playing concerts.

Lips says that when he heard Gervasi wanted to make a film about them, he burst into tears.

"It was actually a really emotional moment. We always wanted to be successful and to be able to hold our heads high, but we've never been able to do that.

"When Sacha said, 'I'm gonna make a movie', it was what I've been waiting for my whole life. Finally, someone's taken notice. I've been yelling into a black void and someone's heard me.

"I know I've got an incredible story and the tenacity and optimism that's in my soul have been crying out for 30 years, and finally someone was saying, 'Here's your chance'."

Gervasi is the screenwriter of the Tom Hanks film The Terminal and has a daughter with Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

He also has a unique connection with Anvil - he ran away from home to be their roadie when he was 15 years old.

Years later he met up with them - and says that within a day he knew he had to make a film.

"There are these two kids, Robb and Lips, who made a pact at the age of fourteen that they were going to rock forever - and they really meant it," says Gervasi.

Amplifiers to 11

"Here they are in their 50s. How many kids are still pursuing their dream 40 years later? That's what's awe-inspiring and hilarious and insane, and incredibly moving at the end of the day.

"I was working with a veteran Hollywood crew on this project who were quite cynical. They ended up being totally inspired by the band because they could see they were doing it for real."

With albums called Plugged in Permanent and Juggernaut of Justice, the parallels with Spinal Tap are there to enjoy.

The drummer, like Spinal Tap's director, is called Robb Reiner. Anvil's amplifiers do indeed go up to eleven, and they also visit Stonehenge during a visit to the UK.

"The truth is that's just the entry point for the film," Gervasi says.

"I've had 80-year-olds offering to buy the Anvil album because they just want to help the band. It's not really about heavy metal - it's about perseverance and friendship."

This underdog spirit also prompted stars like Slash and Lemmy from Motorhead to go on camera and pay tribute to the group.

Their music may not be to everyone's taste - but Anvil hope the medium of film will promote their music.

"You get overlooked in the music business sometimes," Lips explains. "But the bottom line is you know that in your heart you're making a difference and you never give up."

"We call ourselves lifers. It wasn't an overnight thing, we wanted to do this for our lives. It was a decision we made as young kids and we're staying true to what we started."

Drummer Robb Reiner is more succinct about his future ambitions.

"I just wanna rock," he smiles.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil is released across the UK in February 2009.

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